We have been conditioned by stores and banks that we “have” to purchase gifts, and expensive gifts at that, for friends and relatives for every possible occasion: Christmas, New Year, birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, baby showers, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, reunions, retirements, graduations, housewarmings and more. The gift-giving expenses snowball, and the guilt mounts if we can’t give a gift of “proper” value, or as nice of a gift as the other person has given us.
How meaningful and genuine are most of the gifts? You may find that you are giving many gifts out of the sense of obligation, and not because you think the recipient would really need or enjoy that item.
How useful are the gifts, and would they only create additional clutter in the recipient’s home? Just yesterday, I was at Costco and saw a couple hauling away a cart with about ten large boxed crystal vases. My guess is that the vases will wind up as stock gifts for the holidays – and, while a big crystal vase looks nice on display, most recipients of the vase would likely be mostly preoccupied with finding a place to store it.
Do you feel any closer to your friends and relatives because of these gifts? You may find yourself wishing for longer conversations or get-togethers rather than merely exchanging gifts.
And last but not the least – can you afford these gifts? As a bankruptcy attorney, I see that often people incur liabilities not just to purchase necessities for themselves, but to give gifts and to demonstrate their generosity towards others.
Gifts can easily wreck an already tight budget and can cause money that you are counting on for rent and groceries to disappear in the most puzzling and mysterious ways. While gift expenses may seem sporadic, they add up over the course of the year and can consume a significant part of your earnings. Based on my conversations with clients, I often find that people don’t budget or account for gifts when they reflect on their regular income and expenses.
I am not against gifts, especially unexpected and unscheduled gifts and gifts for kids – but I do think that in general, gift-giving has gotten out of control, and is often wasteful, meaningless and too costly. Let’s stop the obsession with gifts and find other ways to connect with those we love. Talk to your friends and relatives about it, and see what they think – suggest to cut down on gifts this holiday season. You may be pleasantly surprised they feel the same way and would be relieved to follow suit.